A little less than two months after the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™, Asian fans were treated to some intriguing football with the continent's top teams involved in a series of international friendlies over the past week. With the 2011 AFC Asian Cup kicking off in four months' time, these warms-up provided the participants with precious chances to take stock of their preparations.
Japan and Iran emerged the biggest winners with each bagging two consecutives friendly victories in six days. The east Asians avenged their FIFA World Cup defeat to Paraguay with a solitary-goal triumph before then edging out Guatemala 2-1, while Team Melli prevailed over both China and Korea Republic. Join FIFA.com as we take a review of the recent international activity across the world's biggest continent.
Zaccheroni optimistic for Japan
Having narrowly succumbed in a Round of 16 penalty shoot-out against Paraguay at South Africa 2010, it seemed fitting for Japan to take some revenge as they overcame the South Americans 1-0 at home in the Kirin Cup opener last Saturday. Unlike the war of attrition that was the knockout match in Tshwane/Pretoria, Japan looked a different side in the re-match, starting like a house on fire. Cheered on by 65,157 fans at the Nissan Stadium at Yokohama, Samurai Blue dominated the proceedings in the opening half before Shinji Kagawa grabbed a deserved winner on 64 minutes after running onto a Kengo Nakamura pass.
They maintained their form against Guatemala yesterday, and Takayuki Morimoto's brace inside 20 minutes helped the home side to a 2-1 victory. “The results are good and Japan played well both technically and tactically,” said newly-appointed boss Alberto Zaccheroni, whose first match in charge will be a high-profile friendly against Argentina on 8 October. “After watching these games, I have a stronger feeling of responsibility as coach and would like to work with the team with passion to meet the expectations of our fans.”
Iran seek to end title drought
Since missing out on South Africa 2010, Iran have embarked on intense preparations for January’s AFC Asian Cup in Qatar as they aim to revive their fortunes by claiming the continental title for a fourth time. Under coach Afshin Ghotbi, the new-look Team Melli looked unstoppable against China on Friday with Andranik Teymourian and Mohammad Gholami striking in each half for a deserved 2-0 win. They went on to win their much-anticipated clash with Korea Republic yesterday with Masoud Shojaei capitalising on a defensive error by Lee Young-Pyo to net the only goal of the contest between the two continental heavyweights.
“We did well in reducing the opponents' space while we were dangerous in attack. We played a good match tactically,” stated Ghotbi after the match. One of Asia’s powerhouses, Iran have been known for underperforming on big occasions over recent years. Team Melli have failed to qualify for two of the last three FIFA World Cups, and have not won the AFC Asian Cup for 34 years. “My goal is to lead Iran to clinch the Asian trophy after 35 years and we will do our best to make the 75 million Iranians happy,” he concluded.
Elsewhere, new Australia coach Holger Osieck notched a first win in the second outing under his stewardship as the Socceroos defeated Poland 2-1 yesterday, following on from a goalless draw against Switzerland four days earlier. Brett Holman put the visitors ahead on 13 minutes in Krakow and although the locals drew level four minutes later courtesy of Robert Lewandowski, full-back Luke Wilkshire sealed victory for the Aussies from the penalty spot on 24 minutes.
Tuesday's action also saw 2011 AFC Asian Cup hosts Qatar share the spoils 1-1 with Oman. In other west Asian matches, the United Arab Emirates recorded an impressive 3-0 win against Kuwait, while Bahrain overpowered visitors Togo by an identical scoreline.